Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Are You Mixing The Right Flavors?


Quite often we hear these familiar remarks from our families, friends, colleagues, and the rest.  I am sure you heard one of these either this week or this month!
“Whenever my Dad talks to me, he starts giving me wisdom. It is all about what to do and what not to do.”
“My manager comes and talks to me whenever he has some task on hand. I end up doing it. “
“I have stopped talking to my husband because he reacts to whatever I say. He goes on talking about his opinion. He criticizes but does not try to understand what is going on. “
“My brother comes to me whenever he needs something.  I haven’t seen him helping me on anything or sharing anything with me.”
“He is a loudmouth. I wouldn’t invite him for this party.”
“He does not support our team. He bosses around!”
 “That evening, when he said that to me, I felt like moving away and stop talking to him.  He is such an idiot! He doesn’t care!”
Will a cocktail party with the right mix of flavors help us loose our inhibition and have a smooth talk?  Will that be the right occasion to connect a troubled boss or a coworker with the rest of the team?  Some of you must have tried that and know what happened the next morning or the next week. The story repeats and the experience does not improve. So, what do we do?
We are social and connected. We are connected with our families, relatives, friends, colleagues and communities.  The way we communicate builds our relationships with people around us. The flavors of communication are numerous.  From greeting and enquiring to commanding and criticizing we end up one way or the other.  The flavors we mix to communicate either foster relationships or lead to withdrawals because of a potential communication breakdown.   This is because communication is one of the significant factors that reflect our attitude and behavior in any social setting.
So, are we mixing the right flavors or missing the essentials?  And are we avoiding the brutal ones?

Look at this picture for a moment.  It provides just a collection of different flavors we end up reflecting in our communication.  There are several other flavors such as encouraging, badgering, boosting, boasting, inflaming, and so on.  I am sure, you have more to add.  If you have some, please feel free to add those in your comments and share your thoughts on this post.
Which of these flavors are the most likable?  Which of those produce sweet memories?  The list is not very long but it includes responding, enquiring, supporting, aligning, believing, sharing, trusting, appreciating, greeting, comforting, listening, caring, and the likes.  That is the first set of flavors I wanted to present. I am sure you like all of them. Obviously, everything in this set creates a wonderful experience. These are the ones that are pleasant and amicable in all situations. These are the ones that let us connect with people and nurture relationships.

These flavors make a pleasing impact when we are genuine with no intent of manipulation. In some cases, people mask everything else and mix these flavors well enough to construct a positive image of each other and build their relationship.  You know what happens next. Is repeating these flavors a practical way to live our lives happily?  Yes, that makes sense but we need many other flavors too!
Sometimes we need to communicate in different ways.  We need to mix more flavors.  That list includes flavors such as reacting, advising, instructing, opining, directing, supervising, guiding, tasking, probing, commanding, controlling, criticizing, etc.   That is the second set of flavors.  It is tough to live without some of these flavors in certain situations.  Yes. It is tough to eliminate or avoid such  flavors all the time considering the variety of roles we play – Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Sister, Brother, Husband, Wife, In-Laws, Grand Parent, Student, Teacher, Coach, Mentor, Supervisor, Team Member,  Entrepreneur,  etc.
When we repeat more and more of the flavors in this second set, we shrink the wonderful experiences created by the first set.   Eventually, when we forget about the first set, we create a bitter experience.
This is a tiny thought I wanted to express through this blog post. When this stays in our mind, we understand the constant and consistent focus we need to have in balancing these two sets in certain roles.
How do you know if you are maintaining the balance or not?  One way is to do self-inquiry or introspection.  Another way is to listen and understand how people around you respond to your interactions and consider signals that come to you through feedbacks.   A better approach is to find opportunities to mix the flavors of the first set.
There is yet another approach. Next time when you either make or consume a cocktail or mocktail, remember this question.  Are You Mixing The Right Flavors?  I am sure you will mix the right flavors!
Wish You a Happy New Year 2015!
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